Alber Elbaz is not one for mundane presentations. For his Lanvin resort presentation Monday at Milk Studios, he created an elaborate, festive environment featuring multiple vignettes intended as send-ups of sitcom sets. The point was to explore — with humor and a healthy buffet lunch — the relationship between reality and artifice.
The installation centered on the work of artist Cyril Hatt, with whom Elbaz has collaborated in the past. One tableau, in the center of the room, had two silk print-clad, wind-blown (thanks to photo studio fans) models posing next to a dented, contorted red car. A gigantic giraffe lurched his long neck into an animal-spotted scene; a wall of Renaissance and romantic portraiture anchored a parlor vignette.
But holy fakery! The car, the giraffe, the portraits, even a toilet, were all fakes, crafted out of paper by Hatt. He photographs objects in detail, makes prints on photographic paper and then composes the prints into full-size, 3-D facsimiles of the objects, stapling or stitching the components together.
Hatt has been working with photographic imagery for 15 years and began transforming the work into sculpture 10 years ago. “Nowadays it’s more relevant to me,” he said. “We keep our photos in our cell phones or some digital media and to me, it’s very important to feel something with volume, something that is touchable.”
Hatt calls his process “very basic.” He prints in the 4-by-6 format, which he considers the format of everyday pictures. “When I was young, this is what we would classify into albums, and we were not allowed to touch them,” he said. “Today, I’m attached to this format because it’s like a puzzle for me. It’s a collection of memories. I put [something] into volume because I need to see it physically.”
Case in point: The car. It was Hatt’s car and he loved it, but eventually the bell tolled for its usefulness. “I enjoyed driving it and at some point I had to get rid of it because it was too old so I kept it’s appearance as a souvenir,” he said.
Hatt started collaborating with Elbaz in 2009, contributing pre-existing pieces for Lanvin’s Paris windows. One such installation involved paper motorcycles. Eventually, Elbaz was commissioning works. For the resort presentation, he made a huge chandelier — “a big challenge because I had a short time to create” — as well as a shoulder bag, Lanvin shopping bags and other accoutrement.
“It’s a relationship with lots of humor,” Hatt noted of his work for Lanvin. “I appreciate the fact that Alber wants to mix my universe — the things that come from everyday life — with his nice, beautiful collections.”